A dress for grandma’s funeral

As mentioned in an earlier post, my grandma passed away this winter. January 31st was her last day, and as I was ill when she got her second bout of pneumonia in as many months, I wasn’t with her when she went. I had visited her just weeks before, and my brother and I had a happy time with her then. In a way it’s nice to have that as my last memory of that grand and impossibly stubborn old lady.

I loved my gran. My whole life we were very close – perhaps too much so. She was a Hostess with a big H, always catering for guests and urging us to eat for four (my family still employs the term “grandma-full” as a term to describe the feeling of being especially over-stuffed). She was part of the resistance movement during WWII, and after my grandfather passed away years before I was born, she lived alone in her big house. She filled it with people and activity up to the time she went blind from glaucoma. The blindness was a slow process, and almost my whole life she needed some assistance. I was always her eyes when we were outside the house. This May she would have been 100 years old.


Me and gran at my 20th birthday

My grandma, always the queen of drama. It’s a wonder she survived the war, what with all the episodes of coming face to face with a German gun, daring the soldiers to shoot. Despite all her anxiety in her later years, I doubt she had it in her to be truly afraid. Life was a play and the world her stage. Being part of the audience wasn’t always easy, but it was never dull.

At gran’s request, my brother and I played a Duet by Mozart, her favorite composer, at the funeral. I play the flute, my brother the French horn, and we hadn’t really played anything together before this. It was no easy task to play at grans funeral. I’m glad we did, but I’m never doing anything like this again. On top of the duet, I volunteered to play Bach’s Air at the beginning of the funeral.

Back when I’d just started to make teddy bears, I made one for gran. To this date this is  the only bear I’ve made who has an open mouth. Binna (she-bear in Norwegian) became gran’s companion, and gran slept alongside her for many years in addition to bringing her with her around in the house. Some years ago gran requested that Binna should accompany her when she died. During the week between gran’s death and me taking possession over my fabric shop, I went to the funeral home and brought Binna with me for a last farewell with my gran. My brother made an ice bear from pipe cleaners years ago, and this went into the casket with Binna.

Binna with a little pipe cleaner ice bear made by my brother

Binna with the little pipe cleaner ice bear sitting in her waistband

As my grandma was prone to depression, always expecting the worst and making a scene if nothing else was happening , I could never wear anything other than black at her funeral. When my other Grandma died two years ago, I opted for pale yellow silk, as I wanted to celebrate her long life, rather than mourn her death. She was a half-full-glass kind of a person. This time around, I was saying goodbye to a person who could be the poster girl for the half-empty glass most of the time.

Still, I wanted to do something special, not just make any LBD and run with it. I decided to use wool gabardine and wool crepe. My inspiration was in large part a dress made by one of my classmates back when we were all making landscape dresses. I remembered her making these softly folded bias strip inserts in her dress, and thought it would be interesting to try. I designed a dress with a folded bias strip running through the whole dress, starting and ending in the back hem. It also features wool crepe inserts in the sides and a double inverted kick pleat in the back. This was not an easy project, and the finished dress feature wool crepe bias strips sewn on top of pattern pieces made from wool gabardine, as the strips by themselves had too little structure. I also discovered that corners are impossible to make with this technique, and the dress is a bit tighter than it started out to be, as I had to cut all the corners, turning them into curves as I went along. Still, I’m pleased with the end result, I really love this dress. I think gran would have loved it too, as all the bias strip details give a lot of structure to “see” with ones hands.


The necklace is a gold watch. This and the bracelets are all heirlooms from my grandma.

tn_Svartkjole5 tn_Svartkjole4 tn_Svartkjole3 tn_Svartkjole2

It was a lovely service, and on the days after the funeral, all I wanted to do was to call gran and tell her all about it. She would have loved to hear about all the stories that were told, the details of the service, the people present, the lovely priest. It was a fond farewell with a real special old lady.

Goodbye my impossible grandma, and thank you for being part of my life all these years. I miss you.



Filed under Sewing

2 responses to “A dress for grandma’s funeral

  1. What a nice blog post and tribute to your grandmother.

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